BSI junior wins national award for mental health awareness work

Since arriving at U-M her freshman year, BSI junior Sonia Doshi has been committed to promoting emotional wellness and raising awareness about mental health issues.

She has worked with a number of organizations that seek to de-stigmatize mental health issues, designed an online forum for students to discuss and resolve stress-related problems, and even organized a film competition for college students to submit short films about how they cope with stress.

For all her involvement with community organizations and her advocacy work for mental health issues, Doshi has been honored with the 2015 Jerry Greenspan Student Voice of Mental Health Award from the Jed Foundation, a national organization working to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college students.

The Greenspan Award is issued annually to a student who is reducing prejudice around mental illness, raising issues of mental health issues on campus, and encouraging his or her peers to seek help. As the recipient of this honor, Doshi receives a $3,000 scholarship, recognition on the Jed Foundation’s website, and a trip to New York to attend the foundation’s Annual Gala to receive the award on June 3.

Doshi’s efforts to raise awareness about mental health began after she watched a high school friend battle depression and struggle with fears of openly seeking help to treat it. During her freshman year at U-M, Doshi attended a leadership conference where she developed her focus to de-stigmatize mental health issues on college campuses.

As a sophomore, Doshi began volunteering with the Healthy Minds Network, a mental health research team for young adults and adolescents. At HMN, she used her academic focus on user experience design to design tinyshifts.com, the online forum that allows students to share issues they encounter when coping with stress.

HMN hired Doshi as a research study coordinator in the summer of 2014. In this role, she coordinates HMN’s local research studies on mental health education and examines the effectiveness of video interventions in encouraging those suffering from mental illnesses to seek help.

These efforts led Doshi to organize the Tinyshifts National Film Competition, which asked for college students around the country to submit two-minute films that portrayed how they cope with stress. She plans to make the competition an annual event that will not only encourage reflection and conversation about the films, but will promote creative thinking about ways to cope with mental health issues.

Doshi also has been heavily involved with U-M’s Athletes Connected project, a collaboration between the School of Public Health, Depression Center, and Athletic Department to increase awareness of mental health issues and promote positive coping skills among student athletes.

Furthering her efforts to grow mental health support on the U-M campus, Doshi also started the student organization Healthy Minds Student Leadership Coalition, which brings together student leaders from across campus to increase mental health conversation, awareness, and impact at U-M.

The coalition has worked with a number of other organizations to sponsor several mental health awareness events, including the Mental Health Monologues, which provided a safe space for students to share their mental health and illness stories through poetry, dance, and other performances. Doshi produced the event and worked with performers to help prepare them to share their stories and find closure and comfort in the process. The Mental health Monologues are planned to be an annual event.

Posted May 11, 2015